J.J. Byrne gains ground against ol’ George

Brooklyn Daily

A popular Park Slope playground reopened last week with a new name honoring a long-forgotten borough president — marking a minor victory for the barely remembered politico over the landmark-hogging forefather who snatched away his legacy.

History-loving city officials unveiled the new J.J. Byrne Playground in Washington Park — a green space on Fifth Avenue that initially bore the name of George Washington, then honored the late Beep until 2008, when the nation’s first president won the title again.

As a consolation prize for Byrne — who died in office in 1930 — the park’s playground got a revamp and a new name in his tribute.

The new kids spot — near the legendary Battle of Brooklyn site where Washington fled the borough to escape British forces — now boasts a “toddler area,” water fountains, and colonial-themed playground equipment.

Parents said the park’s new features give pre-school-aged kids more choices, and bigger kids a chance to learn about history (albeit of Washington’s era, not Byrnes’s).

“It’s more than a park — it’s an important historical location,” said Park Slope mom Alexandra Saghir.

Last Friday, politicians including Councilmen Brad Lander and Steve Levin (D–Park Slope) joined Borough President Markowitz to celebrate the playground’s new fixtures by wearing colonial costumes — a nod to Washington with their tricorn hats, not to Byrne, who before his death ordered the construction of a replica Dutch farmhouse near the playground.

The structure — completed in 1934 as a park office and comfort station and now known as the Old Stone House — influenced the playground’s colonial theme.

Lander, Levin, Markowitz, and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Carroll Gardens) spent more that $3 million to pay for the play area — which pleases parents of Park Slope.

“It’s a very special place,” Saghir said.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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